In a homily he prepared for a statewide pro-life Mass, Bishop Martin Amos spoke of the need to “rededicate ourselves to the cause of life — to be a people of life and for life.” The Mass, scheduled for Jan. 15, was slated to conclude the first day of the Iowa Institute for Social Action. Both events were cancelled because weather forecasts predicted hazardous driving conditions.
Despite the cancellation, let’s consider the significance of the pro-life Mass being a part of and not separate from the Social Action Institute. The two events have been coupled for several years. Prior to that development, however, many Catholics who concentrated on pro-life issues would not have collaborated with Catholics who concentrated on social justice issues — and vice versa.
“There has been and still is a divide,” acknowledges Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy arm of Iowa’s bishops. The church teaches that “some things are more important than others,” he noted, referring to the right to life from womb to tomb.
We become people of life and for life by working for the common good, “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). That commitment requires us to address issues, some of them contentious, which impact people’s lives from womb to tomb. For starters:
• Abortion funding. Chapman anticipates introduction of a bill to defund organizations that provide abortions. That money could be better spent, as Chapman suggests, in addressing the very real needs of rural Iowans whose access to health care is limited.
• Project Rachel. Jan. 22 marks the 44th observance of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion. More than 56 million unborn children have been aborted since 1973. Their deaths represent the antithesis of human flourishing. We can’t forget that fact. Project Rachel is a confidential ministry that reaches out to those impacted by abortion. Call the local helpline at (563) 333-4107, the national helpline at 1-(888-456-HOPE) or email email@example.com.
• Iowa’s budget deficit. Because of the downturn in Iowa’s economy and declining state revenues, Gov. Terry Branstad plans to trim $114 million from the state budget in the current fiscal year. The cuts include $35 million from Iowa’s 15 community colleges and three state universities. Another $20 million would be cut from the Department of Human Services, $15 million from the Department of Corrections, $14 million from Medicaid and $7.7 million from the Judicial Branch. The governor also recommends using $33.2 million in ending balances from other funds, such as the Taxpayers Trust Fund, to keep the state budget balanced, according to State Rep. Cindy Winckler of Davenport. All of these cuts would impact human flourishing — for people with disabilities or limited income who depend on Medicaid, for college students, for juvenile and adult offenders who are best served in specialty courts rather than incarceration. K-12 funding is spared. Now lawmakers will craft their priorities in the state budget. Let them know the issues you are most passionate about.
• Voter IDs. In a state that prides itself on voter integrity and participation, Secretary of State Paul Pate proposes to upgrade the state’s election system. The upgrade would include requiring voters to show an ID before voting. Why is it necessary to fix something that already works? Why risk disenfranchising students, the elderly and low-income voters? Tell Pate that voter ID cards are discriminatory.
• Medicaid Privatization. Gov. Branstad pushed through privatization of Medicaid last year, despite strenuous objections about how the change would impact 600,000 Iowans — children and adults with disabilities or low incomes — who depend on Medicaid. The governor said privatization is saving money, but he has agreed to pay the companies managing Medicaid another $33 million because they’re not making enough money! Medicaid is the second-largest expense in the state budget (22 percent), just behind education. As Iowa’s bishops note, access to health care is a basic, human right. Ask the Iowa Department of Human Services (dhs.iowa.gov) how to access the calendar of this year’s monthly meetings for providers, patients and advocates.
We rededicate ourselves to be people of life and for life by fostering human flourishing through prayer, education, legislative advocacy, volunteerism and finances. For inspiration, visit the ICC website (iowacatholicconference.org) to view its legislative priorities. Then, take action. That’s what it takes to flourish.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)